The current employment situation is tough, meaning there is intense competition for relatively few jobs. You’re probably rejecting more applicants now than usual.
How you handle the rejections can mean the difference between an applicant with a positive impression of your organization and one whose feelings are hurt—and who might decide to sue you.
Send a well-crafted rejection letter to candidates who were interviewed. It assures them that they were seriously considered and it keeps you from having to verbally explain, in detail, why you rejected them.
Give a neutral, nonspecific reason for the rejection. No law requires you to tell applicants why they weren’t hired.
Sample language to consider:
Thank you for your interest in our organization. We have reviewed your background and experience, and although your qualifications are excellent, we have decided another candidate more closely fits the position’s requirements at this time.
It was a pleasure meeting you during your interview. We wish you the best of luck in your job search.
If you believe that the applicant could qualify for other positions in your company, you may encourage him to apply again in the future. (But don’t encourage him unless you truly want him to do so!)
Try to personalize the rejection letter. Use the candidate’s name and the position title, and refer to something you discussed during his interview.
Never provide inaccurate, misleading or conflicting reasons for an applicant’s rejection. They’ll come back to haunt you. Judges and juries often look askance at employers that do this, viewing it as pretext for discrimination.
For applicants who never even make it to the interview stage, consider sending out a form letter or email, thanking them for applying and stating that “other candidates more closely fit the position’s requirements.” For résumés/applications that arrive unsolicited, have a form letter or email ready stating that no appropriate positions are available at this time.